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The New Mexico state Legislature this week passed a $6.23 billion budget (HB 2) that increasing funding for education, job training and other programs. It also includes a tenfold increase in the Local Economic Development Act fund, one of the rare proposals this session that were supported by Democrats as well as Gov. Susana Martinez.

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NM Legislature Rips Through Bills; Wrangling Capital OutlayThe Associated Press 

State lawmakers continue putting finishing touches on dozens of bills as the 52nd New Mexico Legislature's first session heads for the history books.

Among bills lawmakers sent to Gov. Susana Martinez for consideration Friday was a massive $6.2 billion budget. It includes pay raises for new teachers and state police. It also boosts spending for education, the state's child welfare agency, public safety, tourism and economic development.

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T-Mobile’s corporate policies violated the rights of their employees, including those who work in New Mexico, according to a court ruling this week.

There are 550 people working at a T-Mobile call center in Albuquerque.

Several of them complained to the National Labor Relations Board saying they were prohibited from talking to each other about how much they get paid and other things.

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Long-time Democratic State Senator Phil Griego resigned while facing an ethics investigation. At issue is a real estate deal that Griego brokered for friends of his who own a hotel in downtown Santa Fe.

www.sitesantafe.org

In 20 years now of exhibitions, SITE Santa Fe has helped launch the careers of hundreds of emerging artists from around the world.  Recently, the contemporary art center in the Santa Fe Railyard has started taking under its wing young artists close to home.  Joanne Lefrak, SITE's Director of Education and Outreach, describes the SITE Scholar program, designed to help students from colleges and universities in northern New Mexico transition into th

New Mexico Legislature Heads Into Final StretchThe Associated Press

New Mexico lawmakers are scrambling to wrap up work on dozens of bills before noon Saturday, and some significant initiatives are still hanging in the balance.

A $6.2 billion budget bill is still sparking last-minute bickering among Republicans and Democrats.

And the fate of hundreds of millions of dollars in capital outlay projects is still undetermined, as is a bill aimed at boosting state lottery sales.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

Advocates have tried since 2011 to pass a bill that would create a new breed of mid-level dental care providers in New Mexico. It passed the state’s House of Representatives on Monday for the first time ever on a bipartisan vote. If the Senate gives it a thumb’s up before the session ends on Saturday at noon, it could mean a big change for dentistry. 

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Javier Martínez was familiar with home-visiting services when his son Camilo was born in January.

Martínez’s 2-year-old daughter Marisela participated in a program, which teaches parenting skills and provides other support for pregnant mothers and new parents and guardians. Such programs improve kids’ performance in school and beyond. And, as New Mexico In Depth and the Las Cruces Sun-News reported in December, home visiting is one way to help reduce fatal child abuse.

Sierra Club

    

The Public Regulation Commission is continuing to seek input on PNM’s energy replacement plan. More than 200 people showed up to a meeting in Albuquerque Wednesday night.

Commissioner Valerie Espinoza took a moment during public testimony to say she had received almost 100 written comments opposing PNM’s plan from her constituents in Taos and Las Vegas.

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KUNM Call In Show 3/19 8a:

Lawmaker activity increases to a near-frenzy in the last days of a session. This year's 60-day legislative session wraps up on Saturday and on the show this week we'll look at what proposals still have a chance of making it to the governor's desk. 

We'd like to hear from you! Email callinshow@kunm.org, post your comments online or call in live during the show!

Guests: 

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Budget, Gambling Compact Pending In New Mexico House - The Associated Press

The fate of a proposed $6.2 billion spending plan that would fund public schools and other government services during the next fiscal year is still unsettled as the New Mexico Legislature approaches adjournment.

Also pending is approval of hundreds of millions of dollars in capital outlay projects and a gambling compact that would clear the way for a handful of American Indian tribes to keep their casinos open.

The 60-day session wraps up Saturday.

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New Mexico is on track for some much needed drought relief according to the National Weather Service spring forecast.

Andrew Church is an NWS meteorologist and said a combination of warm coastal waters and a shift in trade winds from last week’s tropical cyclones will deliver higher than average precipitation across the state.

“It’s a wet scenario for us, something we haven’t seen in at least four years so,” Church explained. “If you were thinking about investing in rain barrels, this would be a good year to do it!”

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The city of Albuquerque will award over $2 million in contracts to five local nonprofits to fund mental health, homelessness and hunger programs. 

Half a million dollars of the city’s funding will pay for housing programs run by Health Care For the Homeless and the Supportive Housing Coalition. Anita Córdova is with Healthcare for the Homeless.

Wikimedia Commons / U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Inevitably, when talking about oil and gas development, the word fracking comes up in conversation.

In the coming weeks, KUNM will be airing more feature stories on oil development in northwestern New Mexico. And I'll be posting here about some of the more technical issues I explore, such as fracking, or hydraulic fracturing. 

Ed Williams-KUNM

Albuquerque To Award $2M In Contracts To Combat HomelessnessThe Associated Press

The city of Albuquerque will award more than $2 million to six nonprofit organizations to help address homelessness and mental health issues.

Mayor Richard Berry announced the funding Tuesday. He says this shows Albuquerque has a heart for the most vulnerable and that it backs up its concern with substantial resources.

Wild Earth Guardians

The Public Regulation Commission held weeks of public hearings earlier this year on PNM’s plan to shut down two coal-fired units at the San Juan Generating Station. But this week people in Albuquerque will have one more chance to weigh in.

PRC Chair Karen Montoya said she received requests from her Albuquerque constituents who want their opinions taken into consideration.

“Things could possibly change a lot,” Montoya said. “Depending on what they [at PNM] bring on, it will effect a change in the mix.”

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NM Senate Approves A $6.2 Billion Budget Bill - The Associated Press

The New Mexico Senate has approved a $6.2 billion spending proposal for the next fiscal year.

Senators Monday night took up a budget bill largely unchanged from what the House approved last month.

The spending plan includes pay raises for new teachers and state police officers. Most department budgets remain flat, but education, the state's child welfare agency and tourism department get more money.

Legislature May Require Public Comment

Mar 16, 2015
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You may not want to listen to your nutty neighbor badger the city council about chemtrails or aliens, First Amendment advocates say allowing public comments—even wacky comments—is essential. A bill moving through the state Legislature would make it the law.

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Guy Bowers imagines his phone ringing off the hook if New Mexico were to return to the days of contributors giving unlimited amounts of money to political campaigns.

Marisa Demarco / KUNM

There have been more than 300,000 civilian gun deaths in the United States in the last 10 years. That’s right up there with the number of military casualties in the nation’s biggest wars. The country's surgeon general says gun violence is a public health issue.

But in rural parts of New Mexico, many people use guns as tools in their daily lives. 

"This is my 12-gauge shotgun, and I’ll say it’s definitely the most versatile tool in the gun cabinet," Billy Ogle said. "And you can take anything from the smallest game to the largest game in North America down."

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Senate Passes Bill Lessening Penalties For Pot Possession - The Associated Press and Albuquerque Journal

Two marijuana-related bills have cleared hurdles in the New Mexico Senate and House.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that legislation that would not include jail time for offenders having less than an ounce of pot passed the Senate on Saturday in a 21-20 vote.

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The cost of tuition at New Mexico public universities is rising and more students are taking advantage of the lottery scholarship, which pays almost full tuition for qualifying students—but fewer people are buying the scratch-off tickets that fuel the scholarship fund.

That’s one of the factors contributing to a slow-building crisis in scholarship funding.

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Navajo Council Approves Referendum On Language Requirements The Associated Press

Funding for the long-delayed Navajo presidential election took a back seat Friday to a provision that would allow voters to decide whether candidates should speak and understand the tribe's language.

Navajo language fluency has loomed over the election ever since a candidate was disqualified last year for failing to prove he met the requirement for the tribe's top post.

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A bill passed in the House Thursday night that would ease renewable energy requirements for Public Service Company of New Mexico, El Paso Electric and Southwestern Public Service.

The bill passed by a slim margin, one vote to be exact.

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Campaign cash may be as much at the heart of the the fight over union membership laws in New Mexico as the dispute over union dues, though no one will directly say so.

Labor unions spent nearly $2.8 million in the 2013-14 election cycle, virtually all of that going to Democratic political action committees and candidates, a New Mexico In Depth analysis shows.

The bulk of that money – more than $1.7 million – went to Patriot Majority New Mexico, a political action committee, or super PAC, supporting Democratic House candidates.

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Injunction Issued On Services For People With Disabilities - The Associated Press

A federal judge is ordering New Mexico state agencies to reinstate services for people with disabilities pending reassessments.

The Albuquerque Journal reports that U.S. District Judge Judith Herrera this week issued an injunction, ruling that there'd been violations of peoples' rights to due process.

Groups which requested the injunction contended that people receiving benefits and services through a Medicaid program were being harmed, and Herrera agreed.

Rita Daniels

A judge heard arguments Thursday on whether District Attorney Kari Brandenburg should be thrown off a high profile police shooting case. Earlier this year her office charged two former Albuquerque police officers with open counts of murder in the fatal shooting of homeless camper James Boyd.

www.newmexicofashionweek.com/

Designer and educator Melissa Lea Beasley wants to build a fashion industry here in New Mexico.  Melissa and the organization she founded, the Albuquerque Apparel Center, have invited designers and fashion professionals from around the state, and around the country, to the Albuquerque Convention Center on March 25-29 for the second annual New Mexico Fashion Week.  One of the goals of Fashion Week, Melissa says, is to bring area designers together with the

US National Park Service

Groups Sue Feds Over Drilling In Northwest New Mexico - The Associated Press

A coalition of environmental groups is suing the federal government over the approval of oil and gas drilling permits in northwestern New Mexico.

The groups filed their lawsuit Wednesday as they prepared to rally at the State Capitol. They contend that more development and hydraulic fracturing could harm the environment and sites such as the Chaco Culture National Historical Park.

The suit names the Bureau of Land Management and the U.S. Interior Department.

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Many counties and municipalities in New Mexico have passed restrictions on mining, oil and gas that go beyond state laws. These are things like: dictating how close wells can be to homes or imposing weight limits on trucks.

A controversial bill (HB 366) that would limit that local control, and give the state exclusive power over all matters relating to oil and gas, passed the House Tuesday.

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